RFA Signings to make Draft Picks Less Valuable

A lot of people have said that in this new salary cap world the draft has become more important. I am not one of those who thinks this and if RFA signings like what the Oilers have done with Vanek and Penner become commonplace draft picks will become even less valuable.

The premise behind believing that the draft is now more important with the salary cap is that you no longer can buy a lot of expensive free agents to fill out your roster and if you draft smartly and can get some cheap quality young players on your roster you will be at a huge advantage. First off, I disagree with this premise from the start because unless you have one of the top picks and can draft a super-talented player, your draft pick is unlikely to make the NHL until they are 20-22 years of age and then it usually takes a year or two before they become top contributors on a team. This is especially true for defensemen and goaltenders. Players can now become unrestricted free agents at age 27 so for most players you would only get at most 3-4 productive years before they become unrestricted free agents and become expensive to resign. This differs from the old CBA where a team held a players rights until age 31 which includes most players prime years.

The other thing that has changed under the new CBA is the compensation required for restricted free agents has been reduced. This summer the Edmonton Oilers tried to pry Thomas Vanek away from Buffalo at a cost of 4 first round draft picks. Under the old CBA it would have been 5. They are also trying to pry Dustin Penner away from the Anaheim Ducks for $4.3 million per season which will cost them just a first, a second and a third round draft pick as compensation. To put that into perspective, the Atlanta Thrashers gave up Glen Metropolit, a first, a second and a third round pick to St. Louis to rent Keith Tkachuk for a couple months of service. So for the price of what some teams were paying for rental players the Oilers can get a quality young player in Dustin Penner for the next 5 years.

So with that in mind, one has to wonder why more teams wouldn’t take the route of signing restricted free agents. I suspect you will start to see it become more and more common especially for players worth up to (approximately) $4.6 million where compensation is no more than a first, second, and a third round pick. When this starts to happen it is going to drive up salaries for players aged 23-27. This is going to mean you won’t be able to draft players have have them on your roster cheaply for much longer than a couple of years and when you can’t do that, draft picks become less and less valuable as there will not be a lot of difference between paying your 24 year old drafted player $4.5 million than signing an equally talented but more experienced 27 year old unrestricted free agent for the same money. Good drafting isn’t the key to winning under the new CBA, good pro-scouting and smart team building is.

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  1. CBC is reporting compensation as 2 first round picks, a 2nd and a 3rd can you confirm or deny this?


    Also I agree with what the oilers are doing, however I do believe in developing from within, all teams have the opportunity to negotiate contract extensions before the player becomes a RFC,
    There are a few things to consider. First, could the oilers could trade for the 30th pick overall in the first 3 rounds and give those as compensation? Are they obligated to give compensation from that years draft? And if so what if you sign more then one RFA? Just curious if you know the answers.

    I really believe that the norm with star players will be resigning before the contract ends, is it a coincidence that Crosby just resigned? I doubt it… In fact it’s quite sad when you think down this line again… It’s almost as though the nhl was out a whole year for nothing… As teams adapt to the new rules it will again become the teams that can spend the cap max will get the best players. The cap min for next year will be $34 mill. The last time i checked there were still 10 teams under $40 mill. So that extra 5 or 10 million that the top 1/4 of the nhl has to spend will mean they can afford an extra one or two dustin penners. In Gary bettmans world I believe he wants teams to spend almost exactly the same giving each team as strong an opportunity to win as every other team. That means that small market teams have a chance to increase exposure. However the small market teams with the increase in the salary cap are at a disadvantage because that 5 or 10 million can make the difference.. But if we look at the oilers model they could really be onto something… Sign a player just coming into his prime to a long term contract… You’ll likely get him for cheaper overall as compared to if you signed him to one – three year deals at a time. and you get him at a time where hopefully injuries and age aren’t a factor… Assuming the oilers sign someone for $4 mill they’ll be at $43 mill.. penner in a couple years could likely be signing a briere/drury/gomez type contract aka $7 mill… so the oilers now have a player worth $7 mill making $4 mill.. so lets say they have a team ‘value’ around $46 mill which will compare to the teams that can spend around the salary cap max and use they’re money to trade for and sign big names…

    The only other thing to think about is what type of relationship will the oilers office have with teams after ‘stealing’ their players.. NHL clubs are a small group of people i’ve found that certain teams trade with certain teams especially when there’s a firesale going on.. I doubt it’s always a coincidence, so a team engaging in these sort of transactions has to be prepared for the consequences.

  2. Compensation is only a first, second and third round pick. CBC has it wrong. I suspect what they did is just look at the compensation tables in the CBA but failing to realize that the salary ranges rise as the average salary rises.

    You must use your own draft picks as compensation and they are for the next draft (or next several drafts in the case of multiple first round picks). If you don’t have your own draft picks then you cannot sign an RFA. Edmonton currently has 2 first round picks next year, their own and Anaheims (from the Pronger trade) but they will have to give up their own.

    Because you have to give up your own draft picks you cannot sign more than one RFA unless they require different draft picks, or unless they somehow re-acquired their draft picks. i.e. Oilers sign Penner, Ducks don’t match and take Oilers 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks, and then at some point in the very near future trades one or more of those picks back to Edmonton. In that case Edmonton could then sign another RFA because they would have their own draft picks to use as compensation again. Although this scenario is possible, it isn’t likely to happen all that often if at all.

    There is still some value in drafting and developing (players do develop loyalty if the situation has been good for them), but it is becoming less and less important.

    And yes, there are benefits to signing a player to very long term contracts at lower average value. The idea is that you can get a better player at a lower salary cap hit. Several teams did that this off season. The final year of Briere’s contract is for just $2 million which helps bring the average salary down dramatically. The Leafs added an extra year to Blake’s contract to get him at a lower average salary. The extreme case is Rick DiPietro who could be an elite goalie in a year or two but his cap hit will only be $4.5 million.

  3. I’m sorry David, but I feel this analysis widely misses the mark for several reasons.

    1 – The draft is more important than ever. This *may* not be the case as the salary cap continues to increase, but the point is that having players being paid tiny entry level salaries and producing like average/above-average NHL players is an enormous boon to your team. When you can have an Eric Staal and Cam Ward, or a Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner, it increases your team’s ability to get other quality players tremendously. With the UFA age decreasing, a team’s ability to have a ‘bargain’ on their roster becomes that much more unlikely without drafting well. You cannot have a team made up of all UFA aged players – your young players MUST be good/great for your team to have a chance at the Stanley Cup.

    2 – Why would you give up the picks when you can get the player for free 3 years down the road? The problem is that for a player to consider signing one of these offer sheets, the offer has to be prohibitively high, otherwise the offer is going to get matched. So where’s the benefit? Dustin Penner has a high upside but he may be no better than what he is now. Thomas Vanek is an elite level LW but is he better than Ilya Kovalchuk or Alexander Ovechkin? What are his chances of outperforming that contract he’s got? Then throw in the draft picks and it’s not worth it.

    Signing RFAs only makes sense in this window – before players become UFA at 27/7, but as they’re about to very soon. I like the Penner deal much more than I like the Vanek deal – but the truth is, elite level forwards just aren’t worth that kind of money and draft picks. You will not see teams doing this more often – the only time that it makes sense is right as your team is about to contend for a Stanley Cup and is missing that one piece.

    as a sidenote, this is unprovable, but Keith Tkachuk was traded back to Atlanta for a 1st round pick in July – that almost surely had to be part of the deal in February, so that deal was really a 2nd and a 3rd. Furthermore, while Atlanta figures to be a mediocre team this year, they are not struggling to find top-level talent like Edmonton – Edmonton’s picks figure to be worth much more.

  4. The draft is more important than ever. This *may* not be the case as the salary cap continues to increase, but the point is that having players being paid tiny entry level salaries and producing like average/above-average NHL players is an enormous boon to your team.

    In theory this is true but the problem with your analysis is that very few players on entry level contracts are big time contributors and those that are are usually high first round picks playing on bad teams (i.e. non-contenders) and also have bonus clauses in their contract which does count against the cap (i.e. they don’t just make $850,000).

    When you can have an Eric Staal and Cam Ward, or a Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner, it increases your team’s ability to get other quality players tremendously.

    Yes, but under the old CBA you could get those guys cheap for much longer. Staal got a $4.5 million/year contract after his entry level contract expired. Vanek got a $7 million/year contract after his expired. Lundqvist got a $4.25 million one year contract and Penner got $4.3 million/year. Under the old CBA players with a couple years experience never got close to this kind of money and if more and more teams start bidding up salaries for RFA’s the value of draft picks will decrease significantly.

    My point in the article is not that good drafting has no value, but that it has less value because you don’t get to keep good players for cheap very long. Getzlaf, Penner and Perry helped the Ducks win a Stanley Cup but the Ducks are going to have a hard time keeping all three beyond their entry level contract. Getzlaf and Perry are UFA’s next summer and the Ducks are going to have to make a decision on whether to keep all three likely meaning dropping a veteren contract or whether to let one of them via trade or an RFA signing and taking the compensation.

    Why would you give up the picks when you can get the player for free 3 years down the road?

    Because you think you can get him cheaper now. Edmonton is paying Penner $4.3 million per year but if they think he can be a regular 35 goal scorer and 80 point guy then $4.3 million will be a bargain. It’s a gamble on Edmonton’s part but if they gamble correctly it’s a win. Plus, in Edmonton’s case it seems players don’t want to go there when they have lots of choices of destinations. But the RFA bidding is less competitive so they have a better chance of getting players to sign.

    Signing RFAs only makes sense in this window – before players become UFA at 27/7, but as they’re about to very soon. I like the Penner deal much more than I like the Vanek deal – but the truth is, elite level forwards just aren’t worth that kind of money and draft picks. You will not see teams doing this more often – the only time that it makes sense is right as your team is about to contend for a Stanley Cup and is missing that one piece.

    I don’t see Vanek deal’s happening very often because I am not sure how many teams want to give up 4 first round draft picks for many players. But I think the sweet spot is (currently) in the $4.5 million and under range. For a first, second, and third round draft pick you can get a pretty good player for a long time. You can get a decent player at $2.3 million and only give up a second round pick. A second round pick is nothing and it could land you a pretty decent second line player for the next 5 years at a reasonable price.

    On Tkachuk, he was traded back to St. Louis for a conditional first round pick. That conditional first round pick is actually the same conditional first round pick that Atlanta included in the deal to get Tkachuk. In that deal Atlanta gave up a first and third round pick in this past draft and a second round pick in the 2008 draft. There was also a conditional 2008 first round pick that Atlanta would have had to give St. Louis had Atlanta re-signed Tkachuk. When they traded Tkachuk back to St. Louis it essentially nullified this conditional pick (St. Louis also got a conditional 4th round pick which I assume was dependent on whether St. Louis signed Tkachuk or not). It’s all strange but essentially it was Tkachuk to Atlanta for a first, second and third round picks. But if you don’t like that, Smyth was traded to the Islanders for a first round picks and two prospects that are probably equivalent to second and third round picks. Forsberg was traded to Nashville for a first and third round pick, Scottie Upshall and a good prospect.

  5. In theory this is true but the problem with your analysis is that very few players on entry level contracts are big time contributors and those that are are usually high first round picks playing on bad teams (i.e. non-contenders) and also have bonus clauses in their contract which does count against the cap (i.e. they don’t just make $850,000).

    True, but those players are still going to be cheaper than any reasonable alternative, and that’s the point. Ottawa had Emery and Meszaros, Anaheim had Penner, Getzlaf, and Perry. The bonus clauses only are for top picks – mid-range picks don’t get them. It’s still an enormous boon to pick up a Lundqvist or Datysuk late in the draft. The draft is still more important than ever because your margin for success in free agency is very low. How many of the contracts signed this off-season would you say rate to both very good now and very good down the road? How many teams ‘stole’ something during this free agency period? Not many. Some contracts are better than others, but not many were right-away awful or great.

    Yes, but under the old CBA you could get those guys cheap for much longer. Staal got a $4.5 million/year contract after his entry level contract expired. Vanek got a $7 million/year contract after his expired. Lundqvist got a $4.25 million one year contract and Penner got $4.3 million/year. Under the old CBA players with a couple years experience never got close to this kind of money and if more and more teams start bidding up salaries for RFA’s the value of draft picks will decrease significantly.

    I see you conveinently picked the most sizable increases, two of them occuring with other teams intervention. Ryan Kesler went up to 1.9 million as well. This doesn’t decrease the value of draft picks because their value still comes from those first three years under their entry level contract – and this is huge value, the only place where a team can figure to get superb gains well beyond expectation.

    Because you think you can get him cheaper now. Edmonton is paying Penner $4.3 million per year but if they think he can be a regular 35 goal scorer and 80 point guy then $4.3 million will be a bargain. It’s a gamble on Edmonton’s part but if they gamble correctly it’s a win. Plus, in Edmonton’s case it seems players don’t want to go there when they have lots of choices of destinations. But the RFA bidding is less competitive so they have a better chance of getting players to sign.

    This last point I hadn’t considered, but the rest – let’s break it down.

    Scenario A: Penner on the Oilers, 1st, 2nd, 3rd to Ducks. I don’t follow the draft that much anymore but from what I hear 2008 is a very good one, much like 2003. The Oilers don’t figure in my mind to be a playoff team, but they could catch magic in a bottle again – Anaheim should pick anywhere from 6th overall to 16th overall. They figure to get at least one player from these three picks who’s less valuable than Penner, but if we look at two good years, say 2003-2004, we see some pretty valuable players being selected.

    Scenario B: The Oilers eat the picks and the season, they select anywhere from 4th overall to 11th overall, get a valuable player who might be NHL ready in 2 seasons, and can still sign a free agent in the off-season – perhaps Patrick Marleau wants to play close to home. They also have this prospect coming up who figures to be a cheap NHL player who should amke between 950,000 and 1.5 million on his contract.

    So it’s Penner’s contract + replacement for prospect A who develops into player A

    or Free Agent B + prospect/player A.

    For Penner, I think it makes sense, but he won’t be a 35/45/80 guy – he’ll be a 35/25/60 guy. He is still a game-changing forward.

    You’re also forgetting that in your scenario where teams sign a guy for 2.3 million that they will almost certainly be matched. The problem, as I see it, is that the team most likely to desire one of these 4.5 million and under players is a team whose prospects for the season look dim anyway, and they are *probably* better off just eating the season rather than selling out a possibly good future for a mediocre present – and Edmonton is exactly in this situation.

    Thanks for clarifying the Tkachuk deal – I’d forgotten there were two first round picks included.

  6. David, I can see offer sheet poaching of other teams’ players being more prevalent in the future, but I am somewhat doubtful that it can become a useful team-building strategy.

    The necessary compensation will be the first issue. I suspect that the majority of offer sheets that fall under the level of a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick will be matched (with much gnashing of teeth) by the player’s prior team. Even those higher priced offer sheets will be a gamble since a team will match up to the point that the cost-to-risk ratio becomes too high to take the chance (Penner is right on the borderline of such a risk). Much as Buffalo matched Vanek’s sheet, so too would Washington probably match a $10M sheet on Ovechkin, or Pittsburgh match a big sheet on Malkin, Staal, etc. The players that can be effectively and successfully poached will be tier 2 or tier 3 RFAs who are offered top tier-1 salaries and have a considerable risk attached to their upside.

    If that’s the case, a team that “builds” via offer sheets can get a maximum of one player every year via this method. If they make a habit of going after even bigger ticket players, they won’t even be able to sustain that pace (they’ll lack the prerequisite 1st rounders to pay in compensation). Of these poached, high-risk players, how many will actually pan out to be worth the cost? A savvy team might feel pretty good if it was batting .500 or better. Thus, over a 5 year period (roughly the length of these contracts after which the newly-poached RFA will hit UFA market) a team would have at most 5 such players, each earning $4M+, and would feel pretty good if three of them are probably producing at a commensurate level — ie. they pan out as top 6, top pairing, or starting goaltender material.

    Let’s assume that the cap remains static (it won’t; but if/when it goes up, the cost to sign the players will go up accordingly so it’s a reasonable estimate for our purposes). So far, you have three players signed that can play top-6/top pairing/starting goalie roles, and two more that might be 3rd line/2nd pairing/decent back-up goalie types. Combined, their salaries are eating up at least $20M, and probably more in the $25-$30M range.

    Now we have to fill out the six other upper echelon roster spots — we’re assuming the above “poaching” success rate (3 of 5). If one of these comes from your farm system (which, as you recall, will be entirely staffed by 4th-7th round or undrafted players) you’ll count yourself lucky. Let’s assume a bargain basement price tag of $500k for this guy, but you’re likely to lose him shortly because he’s probably in the last-year of his first SPC (essentially, he is your Penner-type guy).

    The other five top slots will have to be brought in from the UFA pool. Trouble is, we won’t yet have any “star” players since no one is going to let you poach one via an offer sheet and it would be a miracle to find one in the 4th round (or later) of a draft. Buying an elite level UFA player to make yourself a cup contender? Let’s say $7M if you’re incredibly lucky. He won’t be a franchise player (you’re never going to have a Crosby/Ovechkin/Tavares/etc.) but let’s hope that he and your stolen players are enough to put the team over the top; so now we can go cheap on our other 4 top slot UFAs at an average of $2.5M a head. That has cost us another $17.5M to fill out our top 2 lines, top pairing, and starting goalie.

    Moving on…the two poached RFAs that “flunked” the upper echelon test will go into the 3rd line/2nd pairing/back-up slots. We need to add four more guys in here and let’s hope that one of them will come up from your farm system, again at a mere $500k. The other three players for these slots will have to come via free agency and will have an average price tag of at least $1M a head (probably more, but…). So now we’ve added another $3.5M

    And finally, we need to add the entire 4th line, bottom defence pairing, and three press-box guys — another 9 players. If we’re awesome at drafting let’s say that as many as 3 of these can come up from the farm and the other 5 will have to be UFAs discarded by other teams. If we can manage this at an average price tag of $500k it would be a miracle, but let’s pretend that we can. That’s another $4.5M to complete the roster.

    Total price tag: at least $45M — of which 10 are minimum wage players — and that’s assuming we’re getting bargains all the way along. It’s far more likely we’re scraping right up against the cap or are over it.

    Also, we had better be amazing at the draft since we’ve graduated 1 top level player, 1 mid level player, and 3 NHL-worthy role players in five years using only 4th-7th round draft picks and un-drafted players. Is there a team anywhere with that sort of consistent success rate? Even if we manage to do this, we would have to be injury-free since our farm team has been decimated just to fill up the roster.

    And doesn’t that put us right back where we started in the first place? We’re back to putting all of our emphasis for a contending team onto our drafting, except now we’ll have to accomplish it using late round picks.

    Sorry for the long response, David, but I think this shows that building via offer sheets is simply untenable for a team. You might go out and get a “last missing piece of the puzzle” type of player via the offer sheet, but drafting and developing will remain a key ingredient for any competitive team.

  7. Chris, I never said that you could build a team from scratch from signing RFA’s but I can see some teams using it as another tool in the team building process. Edmonton has added two key players this off season, one via trade (Pitkanan) and one via UFA signing (Souray). RFA signings are just another tool to go along with drafting, trading and UFA signing.

  8. I just want to say that sometimes I wish the level of discussion during the regular season reached the level it just did here, rather than, y’know, drunkenly yelling “Leafs suck!” from the window of my friend’s Civic. That was fun to read. Good entry, DJ.

  9. David –

    Let’s not forget the unwritten rule not to poach other teams’ players among the NHL’s old guard – there’s a lot of GMs who would never consider doing this. Also, let’s consider the deleterious effects that offer sheets can have in arbitration for all 30 teams. (Those offer sheets should not be usable in arbitration comparables, but that’s another issue). These externalities have to weigh in – a large % of the time, you’re just going to drive up the price for your own free agents very slightly.

    You can get some pretty good players through undrafted free agents – at one point last year the Devils had 5 on their roster, and should have 4 on their team this year – a team who keeps missing in the draft can definitely pick up some valuable 4th or 5th defenders or 3rd/4th line players through doing this. Hell, just look at Penner himself.

    but yeah RFA signing as a team-building strategy just isn’t viable, especially not in a deep draft. Edmonton is taking two gambles – 1: that Penner will overperform the value of his contract (which is possible – wasn’t possible for Vanek) 2: that they will finish high enough in the standings that they won’t regret giving up the picks. If they knew one of these things with better certainty, it’d be sensible to do.

  10. That may be an unwritten rule but it is also called collusion so it could be trouble for the NHL if the odd RFA signing didn’t happen, especially now that the compensation has been dropped significantly for lower to mid-level RFA’s.

  11. David – yes, I know you didn’t intend to suggest that an entire team be built that way; however each foray made into the offer sheet market (for lack of a better term) will probably set a team back rather significantly unless it’s on the cusp of being a contender. If we assume that any player that is likely to be successfully obtained via an offer sheet will carry a correspondingly hefty risk factor (I think you’d agree with that), I’m not sure that a team that is in building mode will be any better off with Penner after 4 or 5 years than they would be with their first three rounds worth of 2008 picks after that same period of time.

    If they get him, Penner isn’t going to single-handedly transform the Oilers into a cup contender. It’s still debatable whether he’s a legitimate impact player — that’s the risk factor for Lowe — and I find it hard to imagine that the risk factor is all that much lower with Penner than it would be with those 3 picks. I guess I’m saying that I don’t understand how Lowe thinks he’s getting himself much further ahead along the road of improving his team’s long-term chances of success.

    Conversely, I could very much see a team that’s already a legitimate contender (like Ottawa, Anaheim again, San Jose, and a handful of others) might be willing to sacrifice next summer’s top three rounds of picks in order to get someone they think might be a missing piece of the puzzle — much in the same way that those teams will often trade picks for players at the trade deadline. In that sense, I can see it being a legitimate strategy, but I’d find it hard to call that “team building”.

    In either case, thanks for the stimulating article to start the conversation rolling. 🙂

  12. If we assume that any player that is likely to be successfully obtained via an offer sheet will carry a correspondingly hefty risk factor (I think you’d agree with that)

    I don’t necessarily agree. If you target the right teams that are in cap trouble you have a decent chance of being successful and not take on a lot of risk. Philadelphia is going to have a lot of trouble signing all of Umberger, Richards, Carter and Coburn after next season. Don’t be surprised if someone tries to steal them away from the Flyers.

    I’m not sure that a team that is in building mode will be any better off with Penner after 4 or 5 years than they would be with their first three rounds worth of 2008 picks after that same period of time.

    It all depends on where the team finishes up. If it is a mid-first round pick I’d estimate that at best there is a 50% chance that that pick develops into a player as good as Penner. The second round pick is at best 30% and the third round pick maybe 15% (percentages loosely based on http://www.hockeyanalysis.com/?p=316). Add up those odds and you are only about a 95% chance of getting a player as good as Penner. Now, if Edmonton finishes in the bottom 10 in the league and Anaheim gets a top 10 pick in a good 1998 draft then yeah, Edmonton may have been better off keeping the picks but I am sure Lowe isn’t thinking his team will be one of the worst in the NHL next year.

    Ultimately bidding on RFA’s and giving up first round picks is not for the truly bad teams that would be giving up top 5 picks or top 10 picks in deep drafts but if you are a mid-level team or better likely to get a mid-first round pick or lower then I think it can be a useful strategy to consider.

  13. Sorry I have been a little slow getting the salaries updated. Avery got a one year arbitration award for $1.9 million. Hossa’s was I believe a one year, $780,000 contract.

  14. David,

    I am sure Lowe isn’t thinking his team will be one of the worst in the NHL next year.

    This might be his problem. I think they very well could be, with or without Penner. Neither their goaltending, nor their offense, nor their defense looks better than league average. Their best sniper is a defenseman.

    I can definitely see the Flyers non-tendering RJ Umberger next year if it came down to that. Plus, they can always get rid of Hatcher if they have to.

  15. Im suprised no team has offered Mike Cammillari hefty coin yet. He is my best buds cousins and I know him personally…but wow what a great player…and he plays on a brutal team. In my opinion, other than Vanek, hes the 2nd RFA id try to grab from another team

  16. Ah, I understand where you’re coming from then.

    Re risk factor…

    I think teams in tight cap situations will try to avoid exposing themselves to offer sheets by getting key players under extensions prior to July 1st. If that fails, they’ll probably block them via arbitration. It seems unlikely that it will be the key “guaranteed” players that are being exposed.

    Philly will presumably work on all their key assets as of January (or sooner, depending on when they’re allowed to sign the player) and will position the crucial elements of the roster to be safe from offer sheets (or at least that’s what I’d do). Anyone who hasn’t signed as of June 30 would go to arbitration unless deemed expendable.

    Re draft position…

    Okay. I agree with you then, given that proviso.

  17. David–

    I believe that the value of singing RFA is on the rise and it will decrease the value of draft picks. What I read from your perspective is that teams are willing to go after players that are established and deal draft picks– proven talent vs potential talent always wins. Chris and Triumph are correct that teams should stay with draft–rather than do the Edmonton style– in one of your reply to them you said it is not that good drafting has no value but keeping good players at a good price for a long time is on the decrease and RFA signing is on the rise. The smart teams are going to find a way of having an equal balance between them or the right balance. Triumph and Chris see drafting as the way to build your team– just as I do but the percentage of building a team through a draft vs RFA/FA signings is going to change in years to come.
    I question the Dipietro signing for the number of years– my son will be 12 years old when that contract is up– he is only 5 MONTHS today– it is to long by a decade. Thoughts from you guys on this?
    In regards to comment from Triumph and Chris on teams in the bottom portion of the salary cap– why did the NHL set a floor of 16 million– wouldn’t it be better and easier for teams to have to spend within 6 million of the cap. Someone is always going to spend the most and someone is always going to spend the least and if the cap number is not a number a team has to spend to and currently it is not–(all teams spend 50 million on salary) this current system is set up so far a part at 16 million gap from floor to ceiling. The players can fight this point? Do they want to?
    Why was it set up that way?

    Your site in my view to obtain different perspectives and insights on hockey and the business side of hockey is by far and away the number 1 site I have ever seen. Thank you–

    Just for kicks on a trivia question–
    The last player to have 150 points in a season? What year? and team?

  18. In response to your questions, Mike, I thought that the DiPietro signing was nuts when I first read about it. At the time he’d played only 2 full seasons as a starter and, although young and obviously still developing, his record wasn’t exactly Stirling (63/30/24/5/3.02/.900 in the year prior to signing).

    I didn’t have a huge issue with the money part of it. I think we all anticipate that salaries will gradually rise during that time span and $4.5M will be a bargain for a decent goalie by 2010. He would be overpaid for the balance of his RFA years but if he panned out as a solid starter there was no question that he’d be a steal at that price in the future.

    What shocked me was the term. An unproven, young RFA getting a 15 year deal just seems preposterous, particularly considering some of the busts we’ve seen from other young goalies who burn out after a couple seasons in the NHL (see Carey, Jim). Some guys seem to go through a decent spurt when they’re in their mid-to-late twenties and then bottom out rapidly. If you knew that DiPietro is the next Brodeur/Roy/Dryden I could see it; but that sort of player only comes along once every decade or so, even though perhaps a dozen young kids will be earmarked as having the potential.

    It’s possible that DiPietro will turn out to be that once-in-a-generation guy and if he does, the Isles will be laughing about it for years. It’s the ramifications of him *not* reaching that potential that would scare me. The buy-out cost would be insane (roughly a 3M cap hit for 20+ years if he goes bust this season or next), his contract makes him untradable, and I never got the impression that the Isles were swimming in cash such that they could send him down to spend 10-12 years as a $4.5M AHL backstop. It’s such a *huge* gamble, I’m still shaking my head over it.

    Moving on…

    Narrowing the cap gap between the haves and have-nots would be crippling to non-big market teams. The current $34.3M floor is severely problematic to teams like Nashville (and KC if/when they move there), Florida, Washington, St Louis, Columbus, etc. Many of them barely scraped up enough revenue (including the revenue sharing assistance) to avoid taking serious financial losses with last year’s cap. Jacking the minimum up another $10 to $44M would be absolutely crippling for them…and that’s exactly the precarious financial issue that led the BoG down the path to the lock-out.

    The NHL isn’t about payroll or roster parity between clubs. It’s about generating revenue while remaining profitable. With the CBA, players’ salaries are now firmly tied to league revenue. Their combined salaries must now be between 54% and 57% of league revenue (the exact percentage depends on the dollar amount of league revenue) and currently part of their salaries are placed into an escrow account to assure this. At the end of the season, a player receives only as much from that escrow account as is supported by total league revenues, and anything else is “refunded” to his club.

    The cap itself is determined based on league revenues and the mandated percentage of revenue that is to be allocated to salary. The minimum and maximum cap values are then set at +$8M and -$8M from that calculated mid-point.

    To narrow that gap between team payrolls would almost instantly send about half a dozen teams into bankruptcy. It would also *not* result in the players getting a dime more in income because the escrow would claw back any salary amounts that exceed the 54%-57% of league revenue target.

    To accommodate the poorer teams under your $6M gap proposal you’d have to drop the upper cap value almost the full $10M or else they’ll go bankrupt. This would then likely result in a reduction in overall average salaries without a reduction in league revenue, so the salary amounts would have to be topped up across the board by all teams (putting financial stress once again on the poorer teams) so you’d be back to the same situation as before. The present system tries to balance the financial restrictions of poorer teams by allowing richer teams to undertake a greater burden of the overall total necessary payroll to meet the CBA targets. I expect that if anything, the next CBA will feature an even bigger spread between the two extremes (which would benefit the players) rather than a lesser gap.

    And finally, for your trivial question I’ll take a guess that it was probably Lemieux in either his last full season or second-last full season for Pittsburgh…somewhere around ’96 or maybe ’97…though maybe Jagr managed it (also for the Pens) before his trade to the Caps.

  19. Re: DiPietro – you’d never want to buy a contract like that out, obviously. Also, it’d be something like 1.5 million a year for the next 30 years to buy it out.

    I think it’s a good deal, honestly – yeah, it’s crazy years, but DiPietro was drafted high and figures to be a very good goalie for a long time. A Jim Carey style flakeout with this guy seems unlikely – though the concussions at the end of last season have to be a concern.

    Obviously something like a 12 year deal would be better – but DiPietro figures to be a top 5 goalie in the league for a while, or at least top 10. The top 10 guys will be getting paid more than that.

  20. Chris–
    Thank you– It was interesting in your response how small market teams would be hurt if in fact the upper part of the cap came down and that your feeling is the future CBA will have a greater floor to ceiling gap. Your explanation helped me understand the system better. If DiPietro gets a career ending injury ( concussions ) is the buyout process different? I still feel that this contract is simply a BAD one just for the number of years.

    Triumph– correct– most people say Jargs.

  21. Mike – hey! I got the trivia too!!! 😉

    If DiPietro sustained a serious injury he wouldn’t be “bought out”. The Isles would get their doctors — and independent experts — to fill out an Encyclopedia Britannica worth of medical papers to prove that he had sustained a career-ending injury. As long as the league concurs, he’d be placed on a special injury exemption and wouldn’t be any cap hit at all. The documentation has to be pretty convincing though. If the NHL smells a rat, they’ll investigate and probably hit the Isles with a major fine if they find anything fishy.

    If he simply preforms poorly (the Jim Carey nightmare) they’d have no alternative but to move him to the minors or hope he voluntarily retires. They’d still have to pay him full salary for full duration in the minors (ouch!) and I doubt he’d voluntarily retire since he’d lose that guaranteed income. It’s hard to imagine him kissing the $4.5M per annum goodbye just out of the goodness of his heart. Stranger things have happened though.

  22. Chris, the last situation you proposed makes no sense. Even if Di Pietro is a bust in a couple years (unlikely barring injury), there’s really no reason why he’d accept playing in the minors. It would be more in his interest to be bought out and seek work elsewhere where he could possibly make it back to the top flight. NHL players rarely make it to that level by “cashing out” and even when they do, a situation like the Yashin saga inevitably sorts it out. Egos have a funny way of preventing guys from playing in crappy leagues for good money.

  23. Steve, as far as I know his contract doesn’t include a no-movement clause so he doesn’t have any say whatsoever as to where the Islanders assign him. If they send him down to the minors, his options are to go (and collect his $4.5M per year for the duration) or to refuse to report. If he does the latter, he is in violation of the contract and the Islanders are off the hook for his salary, but they’d still retain his rights and I imagine the contract would be reactivated if he tried to return to the NHL (i.e. he couldn’t refuse to report, sit out a year, and then come back under a new, much lower and shorter contract elsewhere). So DiPietro would have to decide what he wanted to do.

    His salary and term would be the biggest impediment to him returning. The league isn’t just going to look the other way if there’s a hint of some sort of shady moves to invalidate or by-pass the ramifications of a prominent contract (remember the hoopla surrounding it when the deal was announced last year?).

    I can’t see the Isles being willing to buy him out any time soon — and if he’d going to be a bust, it will happen in the next year or two. They aren’t exactly a rich club and they’re already taking a major hit on the Yashin buy-out.

    It’s probably all a moot point. After last season’s performance I don’t think it’s likely he’ll regress to the point where any of this will come into play. What surprised me at the time that the contract was initially signed was the risk Snow was taking — DiPietro hadn’t yet posted reliable numbers over a few season so they didn’t yet know that he’d do well in ’06-07 and be worth that sort of deal.

  24. They aren’t exactly a rich club? Charles Wang is ranked number 330 on the Fortune 400, and HE is worth $890 million, (as in he’s the 330th richest man in America). While he’s no Phil Anschutz (who is number 6), he’s far from poor.

    He’s nuts… not poor.

    Either way… the Islanders haven’t made money in years and are unlikely to anytime soon, what they are is a crappy franchise, not a poor one.

  25. Oh, and one more thing… in the CBA the following is stated explicitly:

    Contracts can be bought out for two-thirds of the remaining value for players over the age of 26, and one-third of the remaining value for players under 26. Players who are bought out cannot return to the old team for at least one year.

    He turns 26 on September 19th, so after that he can be bought out for 2/3rds the remaining value of his contract.

    He’s got 14 years left at $4.5 million per. Every year, 2/3rds of the total will drop. So a buy out will become less of a problem for whoever holds the contract. Every season therefore, the closer he gets to the end of the deal, the smaller the buy out hit.

  26. Steve–

    Play GM of the Islanders and here is the situation:

    Your team has decided to buyout the contract of Rick DiPietro. Based on your most recent comment he will be 26 in September and that is 2/3rds of the remaining value with 14 years left. Tell us what the cap hit will be per year and for how long.
    Triumph/Chris and David feel free to jump in on this or anyone please feel free– It will be interesting to see if everyone has the same response on this.

  27. Well, first of all, I would not buy him out. He should be a very good, maybe great, goalie for a long time. As for what the buyout/cap hit rate will be it depends on the structure of the contract. Assuming DiPietro is set to be paid $4.5 million per year (and not more in some years and less in others) then the cap hit will be the same for every year. Since you cannot buyout players right now they will have to buy him out next summer when there are 13 years left on his contract. If they do that they will be obligated to pay him $1.5 million for the next 26 years and $1.5 million would be the cap hit as well for the next 26 years.

  28. Ok, obviously I don’t seriously believe that Di Pietro will be bought out by the Islanders anytime soon… so discussion of it happening in the next season or two is not at all realistic.

    Injuries like his concussion issues would save the Isles money against the cap anyway, so retirement for such a reason aren’t relevant to this conversation.

    Lets say that he goes downhill over the course of the next 4 years, and eventually has 10 years left at $4.5 million per season (equal payments in every year). That means the team would owe 2/3rds of $45 million paid out over twice the original term. So $30 million paid out over 20 years… as in $1.5 million per season for 20 years. If the cap continues to climb (which it may or may not depending on the CDN dollar and league revenue streams etc.) then a $1.5 million buyout really isn’t that huge an albatross to hang around the neck of any GM… admittedly hanging it there for 30 years is a tad ridiculous, but it isn’t unimaginable.

    Basically, no matter how it pans out, either they’re paying Rick $4.5 mill a year for the next 14 years or so, and he’s a bargain top flight goalie, or they pay $1.5 million a year for a sizable mistake in judgement for the next 3 decades or so and Rick brings home a nice pay cheque for virtually nothing. He has security, but the team DOES have a not so idiotic escape clause… $1.5 million a year is far from unreasonable, and lets face it… there are going to be teams out there desperate to meet the cap minimum… any one of them could take on Di Pietro’s $1.5 million cap hit and bump their numbers up without adding a roster player down the line. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the future with teams struggling to meet the cap minimums.

    Either way, I think paying anyone in any pro sport for a contract longer than 4 years is idiotic. The idea that the marketplace won’t change or shift, and that player values won’t alter is amazingly naive. If I was an NHL owner I’d be pushing for non-guaranteed deals like those in the NFL… no offense to the players union, but a lot of NHL’ers end up being paid for little to no serious contribution.

  29. Steve:

    You cannot trade dead cap space.

    As for teams struggling to meet the cap floor, it is an interesting conundrum, especially with teams like Edmonton where free agents seem allergic to signing contracts there.

    As for paying for more than 4 years – shifts in landscapes always go up, barring any major labor conflict. therefore long term contracts are smart – in fact, sometimes can be smarter than short-term contracts if signed by the right player in the right situation. it’s very often in both parties’ best interest to lock up a player for 5+ seasons – and the player is willing to take a paycut to do it.

    the ilya kovalchuk contract looks pretty good right now, eh? how about vincent lecavalier’s?

  30. I’m not suggesting that they could trade dead cap space. What I’m suggesting is that one of the teams struggling to make the league minimum might trade for him (a draft pick or something), and then buy out his contract and use the $1.5 million per year against the cap to keep their total up while still maintaining a full roster.

    Either way the point is moot if he turns out to be a solid contributor for the next 10+ years.

  31. Lecavalier is averaging out at $6.875 million and his contract expires after the 08-09 season.

    Kovalchuk has 3 seasons left and makes $6.4 million. That doesn’t really leave much room for Marion Hossa (who is a FAR more complete player and is only making $6 million through the end of this coming year).

    Those aren’t long term deals… and both players will be looking for pay raises the next time they’re up for renegotiation.

    Brodeur for $5.2 million, Doan for $4.55 million, Ales Hemsky for $4.1 million, Nathan Horton for $4 million, Brendan Morrow for $4.1 million, Visnovsky for $5.65 mill, and Ryan Whitney for $4 million ALL through 2012 look like much better deals than the two you mentioned… in fact those are the most “genius” deals aside from the Di Pietro deal in the NHL… if you care to argue long term with reasonable price is a better way to go than high price over short term. Personally I think the Rangers, and Flyers are going to spend through the nose trying to keep pace with Jersey and Pittsburgh, purely because Pitt has Crosby and Jersey has Brodeur. It doesn’t really matter who they sign, they won’t top the Devils or the Pens easily… and spending like morons won’t solve that problem.

    Basically we can blame the future of the Atlantic division for the next serious trouble on the NHL CBA horizon.

  32. Kovalchuk’s contract leaves plenty of room for Marian Hossa. You don’t think a team can have two players making in excess of 14 million dollars together? The Rangers have got that, so do the Red Wings, and so do several other teams.

    The contracts you all named – Brodeur’s is terrific, obv, but Hemsky for 4.1 million seems like a massive misjudgement after last season, Visnovsky for 5.65 million is overpayment any way you slice it, and while Doan’s contract is solid, he’s never been that great and he plays for the worst franchise in the league.

    The Atlantic Division will be the most competitive in hockey next year – you’ve got 3 teams who are Cup contenders and 1 who just signed half the free agents out there.

  33. Visnovsky just turned 30, and in 05-06 he had 17 goals and 67 points in 80 games while last year in 06-07 he had 18 goals to go with 58 points in only 69 games. Admittedly his +/- wasn’t wonderful at +1, but considering he plays for LA and only one player was better than +10, I don’t really think that’s a huge indictment against him (for instance Neidermayer was only a +6 last year and he played for Anaheim… so lets not bash him for that). He had the 3rd best point per game total for D men in the NHL, and the best of any D man NOT playing for the Ducks.

    Basically to say the guy isn’t worth $5.65 million is a tad ridiculous when Neidermayer and Pronger are getting $6.75 and $6.25 million respectively, Schneider is getting $5.625 million, Rafalski is getting $6 million, Gonchar is getting $5 million, Chara is getting $7.5 million, and Timmonen is getting $6.33 million a year. Frankly Visnovsky is easily in the top 5 D men in the league, and he’s being paid less than a lot of other D men… for a long time to come. He isn’t overvalued.

    As for Hossa, there’s one problem with your theory. Kari Lehtonen. Hossa is already making $6 million a year and is in line for a sizable raise. Thing is, Lehtonen is only making $1.85 million, and he’s in line for an even MORE sizable raise. You’re right, 2 players for $14 million isn’t unreasonable, but when Atlanta is already at $41 million under the cap with 21 players under contract, they need to add 4 more players, and will probably end up making Hossa a $7 million or more player (he deserves more than that given the contracts going around this summer), and Lehtonen should expect money similar to Lundqvist which makes his salary around $4 million. That means an increase of $3.15 to 4 million for 2 players. Which pushes them up to $45 million or so… and I sincerely doubt Atlanta’s new ownership will be happy with salaries that high, especially when they can’t make the playoffs. They’re in the business of making money, not burning it for kicks.

  34. Oh and as for the Atlantic division being the most competitive… Philly spent their cash a bit idiotically in the off season, but they WILL be better admittedly. New York will still be the Rangers… and now they don’t have enough ice time to go around for their forwards on the power play, expect a few players point totals to drop. They’ll be good, but who knows how good. As for the Pens and Devils, I’m quite certain they’ll still be decent. The Devils will suffer from the loss of Rafalski and Gomez to be sure, but Parise will be better, and Elias and Gionta will be around for a full season. They still have Brodeur, and they’ll probably have more unforseen talent coming in, which, with their new coaching staff, should make it fairly easy to continue their high level of play. The Penguins will be one year older and one year better, so again they’ll be solid. In summation, I agree, the Atlantic will be really good, I just don’t think the Rangers and Flyers will make the inroads people think they will… the Rangers still suck on D but have good goaltending, and the Flyers still have slow plodding D men with 1 decent offensive PP quarterback in Timmonen. They didn’t really improve in the exchange of Forsberg for Briere beyond the fact that he’ll be in the lineup more often. Either way, it’ll be interesting to watch. Somehow I don’t think it’ll be as impressive as you want it to appear though.

  35. I’m sorry but I don’t consider Visnovsky a top 5 defender. He still has a lot of work to do on the defensive end. Plus he’s missed 10 or more games in 4 of his 6 NHL seasons.

    As for Kovalchuk – Hossa is the better player but will also be significantly more expensive. Locking up both and Lehtonen is an impossibility. I recognize Kovalchuk had a down year, but a down year for Kovalchuk is 42 goals – if Atlanta were a well-run franchise at all, they’d’ve gotten him a halfway decent center. I really don’t understand your point re: Kovalchuk – should Atlanta have traded him before the 05-06 season?

  36. Comment posted by Steve on August 15 20007 2:58PM

    “the Rangers still suck on D but have good goal tending”

    Lets analysis this statement and only the part of the Rangers D still sucks.

    If you are talking pre lock out– you are on the money with the defense
    2000/2001-290 GA 30th in league
    2001/2002-258 GA 29th in league
    2002/2003-231 GA 22nd in league
    2004/2005-250 GA 27th in league

    But if you are talking the last 2 years– I would suggest revising your statement or give some actually facts on how this teams defense still sucks:
    2005/2006-215 GA 4th in league
    2006/2007-216 GA 9th in league

    I would love to learn from you on how a team finishes in the top 10 the last 2 years and makes the playoffs but— there D still sucks.

    The king is better than a good keeper!!!

  37. Ok, Mike, I’ll answer that question very simply. Henrik Lundqvist. If you read David’s article on goaltender impact you’ll recall that Lundqvist had one of the greatest impacts on his teams GAA in the NHL… and he’s been the starter in NY for exactly 2 seasons, the ones you listed. Their Defense Corps has improved through the addition of Malik and Roszival after the lockout, but personally I’d say Lundqvist has more to do with it than either of those two players.

    And Triumph my point regarding Kovalchuk was made in response to your point that his $6.4 million contract that expires in 3 years was a “good” long term signing. I’m not saying they should’ve traded him, I’m saying the term and value of the deal don’t leave them a lot of room to sign other top quality talent. Just like the Lecavalier deal (along with Richards and St. Louis) has hamstrung Tampa Bay. The guy doesn’t play a complete game which to me indicates he isn’t worth that price.

    And Visnovsky might not be considered a top level talent in your eyes, but I’m arguing based on the financials of the other D men in the league who make comparable money. Statistically he produces at an equivalent level as any top offensive defenceman in the league. He might not be as durable admittedly, since he is undersized. But I’d still say he’s worth his contract… which is obviously debatable.

  38. Steve,

    Sorry, you cannot have it both ways– you made a clear comment about the Rangers defense. I agree that the King is a big part of the numbers but a keeper is the foundation of any teams defense mind set and is a big part of GA good or bad. I feel anyone saying that a teams defense sucks but has ranked in the top ten in GA is using an ass backwards grading system. I did read David’s article on GA and I agree that the King had the biggest impact on this area for this team the last 2 years but to say a that the Rangers Defense sucks is ridiclious. Give me some actually facts that there defense sucks and I will listen but you gave nothing to support your comment. I suggest revising that comment in order to maintain crediblility or defend it with facts and figures.

  39. Ok… let me defend it with facts and figures. Offensively their top two D men in points (amongst eastern conference D only) are Michal Rozsival and Paul Mara. Marek Malik is your number 3 scorer with 21 points on D?

    Philly has 2 guys named Randy Jones and Alex Picard with more points than that… in addition to Timonen. Pittsburgh had 2 of the top 3 in Whitney and Gonchar, along with Daryl Sydor at 21. The Devils are weak with Martin and Rachunek at 22 points a piece. The Isles are desperate with only Bergeron on the back end.

    I suppose the Rangers D corps is solid from a purely defensive standpoint, I just don’t think they have a good enough QB on their power play, or the leadership from the back end to be considered a true Cup Contender. They need that blue chip guy to get them over the hump, most of their competitors have at least 1 of those guys… if not 2. Philly has Timonen, Pitt has Whitney and Gonchar, Ottawa has Redden and Corvo, the Leafs have Kaberle, McCabe and Kubina.

  40. Good point and my point is that from a defensive standpoint the Rangers are solid and don’t SUCK on defense!!!

    The Bruins, after one season went after a blue chip sure thing in Chara. You say it is important to have for a CUP worth team– and look what that did for them!!!?

    I some what agree with your view but will question you on the teams you mentioned-

    Philly has Timonen, Pitt has Whitney and Gonchar, Ottawa has Redden and Corvo, the Leafs have Kaberle, McCabe and Kubina.

    The above teams have not had a serious playoff run except for the Sens but we all no had badly that ended for them in the finals and prior to that it has been a let down. I could easily counter point based on those players and teams that:

    Rozie and Malik are as important to there teams defense success as the above players/teams mentioned–

    I personally believe needing that blue chip guy on D is a misconception. Teams can win the Grail with good old fashioned TEAM defense without the blue line star or stars!!!

  41. Steve –

    points on defense are highly subject to variance and not a good metric. Alexandre Picard had 5 points in a game against New Jersey, for example, but many of them were secondary assists where he had no real effect.

    ‘Power play quarterbacks’ are more and more often forwards these days and I would be very surprised if the Rangers’ first unit featured two defensemen on the back end.

    The days of needing a true #1 defender to win a stanley cup are about over – because the days of the true #1 defender are over. Naming the top 5 guys in the league is pretty easy, but try naming the 7th best defenseman in the league – that’s not. Two of the last three teams had ‘average’ #1 defenders – good luck naming Carolina’s. Although Carolina’s run to the Stanley Cup was the flukiest in my memory, it still proves you can win without that true #1 guy.

    Regardless, no team wins the Stanley Cup in August – I could see both New Jersey and the Rangers interested in Rob Blake at the deadline as an addition to their power play and second defense pairing. Alexei Zhitnik could be available if the Thrashers tank the way I think they will. The Rangers also have Paul Mara, a player who was highly regarded before he got traded to hockey’s version of Purgatory, then hockey’s version of hell.

  42. The top “Blue Chip” players will always be a hot commodity. The teams that have them still have a better chance at long playoff runs & Stanley Cup championships. Not all of them are defencemen.

    Look at Chris Pronger, for instance. Last year, he brought an average-at-best Edmonton team to the finals — and was unlucky to lose. This year he leads Anaheim to the Cup.

    There are a small number of players who combine great skill with great leadership ability — players like Maurice Richard, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, Scott Stevens, and Chris Pronger — and in the future Sidney Crosby — who find ways to lift their teams to championships. They will always be in demand, and teams that sign them will have a much better than average chance of winning the Cup.

  43. Yeah, as much as I agree with the point that teams can win without a single standout defender, the number of teams with the balance and depth to trot out 6 equally competent defenders is quite few… recently only Buffalo and Carolina of a couple years back come to mind. Rozsival led the Rangers D in ice time at 23:46 per game. 29th in the league. Next would be Paul Mara at 22:08 (and that came playing for Boston mainly), and Tyutin at 20:08. Then come Rachunek and Malik at around 19 and a half minutes.

    The Rangers finished with the 15th most points in the league. They had the 18th best offence, and 9th best D. Their 5 on 5 Goals For/Against ratio was worse than the following teams in the East: Buffalo, Ottawa, NY Islanders, Toronto, and Atlanta. They had the 24th best winning percentage (.771) in the league when leading after 2 periods (not exactly a sign of a wonderful shut down defensive team), and they were only 23rd in the league in winning percentage leading after 1 period (.645). They were also 18th in the NHL when scoring first (.667).

    If they’re so wonderful defensively, especially with such a low goals against, how does one explain their inability to hold leads?

  44. Your numbers make sense but the Rangers Defense does not suck as you stated previously. At the bottom of this page is the source of my info:

    Here is how I figure the Rangers Defense is at least above average. I never said they are a wonderful defense but at best a solid and consistent one.

    Period 1 GA- 7 in league
    Period 2 GA- 12 in league
    Period 3 GA- 6 in league

    Period 1 GAA- 6 in league
    Period 2 GAA- 12 in league
    Period 3 GAA- 6 in league

    GAA per game- 9 in league

    I agree the Rangers had many issues in holding leads in the begining and middle part of the season especially the dreaded 2 goal lead but the last 20-30 games the Rangers where one of the best defensive teams in the league.

    Bottom line for my point is you can only name 8 other teams that had a better GAA per game in the league and the fact that the Rangers finished 18 in league with offense only says how good there are defensively.

    Out of the best 10 ranked defensive teams in GAA, there are three teams that ranked lower in team offense but better in team defense then the Rangers:

    Dallas- Offense- 21- Defense-2
    NJ- Offense-24 Defense-6
    Van- Offense-22 Defense-5
    Here is the source link where I gathered my information:


  45. I don’t honestly think Carolina’s Cup Victory proves you don’t “need” a top quality Defence to win the Cup. I think it proves amazing depth up front, along with consistent if unspectacular D, will overcome a lack of consistent offence from the back end.

    Considering the number of teams with that type of depth in the forward ranks is low, and I’m sorry the Rangers aren’t one of them, the ability to succeed without a top end D man offensively is not going to overwhelm anyone.

    The Rangers LOST Rachunek. They’re now down to their top 5 from last year + Marc Staal, who isn’t really an offensive star.

    Every top ranked team in the NHL ASIDE from the Rangers, has a solid offensive producer in the rear guard. Out west you’ve got Calgary with Phaneuf, Colorado has Liles, Dallas has Zubov, Detroit has Rafalski and Lidstrom, San Jose has Carle and Ehrhoff, LA has Visnovsky and Jack Johnson, Edmonton has Souray and Pitkanen, Anaheim has Pronger, Schneider, and Neidermayer AND Beauchemin, Vancouver has Bieksa. In the East you’ve got Kaberle, McCabe AND Kubina on Toronto, Ottawa has Redden and Corvo, Philly has Timonnen, Montreal has Markov, Buffalo has Campbell, Tampa has Boyle, Florida has Bouwmeester, Pitt has Gonchar and Whitney, The Isles have Bergeron, Washington has Poti, Boston has Chara and Stuart.

    Carolina still has great depth up front with 3 to 4 solid lines. Atlanta doesn’t have a solidly offensive D man to point out. Frankly I put NY in a similar category as Atlanta and Carolina. Good forwards (not necessarily great) and then some decent goaltending. Overall I don’t think NY has the backend to take them to the Cup… sorry it’s just my opinion, and I don’t think their GAA ranking tells the whole story about their “stellar” D.

  46. I know I left Jersey out, and I guess they’d be in the same category as the Rangers, just with less options up front.

    Minnesota has a similar issue with low offence from the back end. Columbus needs to sort themselves out in net. Chicago, St. Louis, and Phoenix are all digging themselves out of the basement also.

  47. I’m sorry but if you are putting Tom Poti on that list, and Marc Andre Bergeron, and Chrsitian Ehrhoff, and Pavel Kubina, how in the world are you leaving off Michal Roszival for the Rangers? He had 40 points last year and played hurt for a fair portion of the season.

    Furthermore, Fedor Tyutin, while not a terrific power play point man, can move the puck out of the zone.

    And – they have Paul Mara, a player who has scored 40 points twice. If he can turn it around, the Rangers have got themselves a bargain.

    I think you seriously underestimate the Rangers. Plus, given what I just said, losing Rachunek means absolutely nothing.

  48. I cannot see how Poti has any value to any team. I saw him in Edmonton, NYR and NYI on each team he did one thing constantly– Nothing!!! They fact that you put him on this says you are on some really good stuff– please send me some in Boston. The GAA tell the whole story– we will just have to agree to disagree on some of the content we are discussing. Simply put the Rangers D does not Suck and I never said it was Stellar or Wonderful– I only said it is a Solid and Consistent D for the last 2 years.

  49. Ok… here’s how I can put Kubina, Poti, and Bergeron on the list but not Roszival or Tyutin.

    Kubina: 21 points in 67 games last season. He only had 8 power play points because he was playing behind Kaberle and McCabe. In Tampa Bay he had 3 seasons with 10 or more goals… and the year they won the cup he had 17, which tied him with Wade Redden for tops in the NHL amongst defenders… and he won the cup that year… unlike Redden.

    Bergeron: He had 46 points last season, 14 of which were goals. He also had 15 goals two seasons ago in Edmonton. The guy had 21 points in the 23 games he played on the Island after his trade from Edmonton last year. A defender that can score around 15 goals and garner 40 points regularly, which I believe Bergeron has demonstrated with appropriate playing time, is in the top 25 D in the league offensively.

    Poti: He had 44 points last year, and he had 48 points a few years ago with the Rangers. He also has had 3 seasons with 10 or more goals. Again, with playing time, he produces points, and has demonstrated such in a variety of situations.

    Rozsival: Has had 1… that’s right 1 season… with 40 points. Last year. Which was also the first time he broke the 10 goal plateau… with exactly 10 goals. Prior to that he hadn’t topped 30 points. I just don’t think he’s done enough to be considered a top end offensive D man.

    Mara: Ok… Mara is the closest they’ve got to what I’m looking for. 2 seasons with 10 or more goals, and 2 seasons with 40 or more points. Those two years he also had over 20 points on the power play. But in 19 games with the rangers last year, the guy had a grand total of 6 points. Over the course of an 82 game season that works out to roughly 24 points? That isn’t really what the Rangers need as O from the back end is it?

    I’ll grant that Mara belongs on the list if you give him top end ice time, similar to what he got in Phoenix… unfortunately, I don’t think he’s going to get that much ice time, because he’s a defensive liability that has 2 seasons of worse than -20 ratings. In Phoenix he was pretty much the top Defender, in NY he’s probably considered number 3.

    Tyutin: As nice as his break out passing might be, the guy has yet to break 25 points in the league, and his career high so far is 6 goals. He isn’t going to make my list until he does a tad more than that.

    Ok… so now that I’ve covered all of those, I guess we’ve decided the best horse in the Ranger barn offensively is Paul Mara? Considering how he got ditched quite quickly by Beantown I’d be a bit concerned if I was a Rangers fan by that state of affairs.

  50. Oh and I forgot Ehrhoff: Number 3 D-man the past few years in San Jose, he’s been getting increased Ice Time each year in the league… last year he got 33 points to go with his 10 goals. I admit that doesn’t really put him in the top end, but I think he’s likely to continue his trend of improvement. Especially since last year was his first season of more than 65 games.

    Anyway… I’m happy to agree to disagree on this one. My main point was that I think the Rangers D is their weak link in any run at the playoffs or the Cup. Maybe they do not “suck” but I think they’re worse than most of their competition in the East. Again… you might dispute that with a variety of stats, but GAA isn’t the one I would use. GAA is a TEAM stat… not just the Defenders… I mean if we’re arguing based on that, you’re going to have to explain how the Rangers are so good offensively when their GFA was 12th in the East last season. They added Gomez and Drury, both of whom play center. They lost Nylander and Cullen, both of whom play center. Their net gain in point production is: 5 WHOLE POINTS!

    WOW. Ok. So somehow their Offence is “amazingly” improved… I don’t particularly know why. And their D is still the same, minus Rachunek, who had 26 points and was -9, replaced by Mara, who had 23 points and was -16.

    Could someone PLEASE explain to me how this team is so much better than they were and why they warrant so much positive press???

  51. Steve –

    I don’t understand what you are using to evaluate these players – it seems quite arbitrary to me (as defenseman points are highly subject to variance + where the player plays)

    While Rozsival has not topped 40 points more than once, he will do it again next season. Furthermore, you can’t really drop in Paul Mara’s numbers as a Ranger to project his future success – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if defensemen points and goals per game are down when the player gets moved at any point during the season.

    If you don’t see that Gomez is a vast improvement over Nylander, and Drury an enormous improvement over Cullen, I am just not sure what sport you are watching. If you can’t see the difference between Scott Gomez playing with a subpar Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta/Sergei Brylin and Nylander playing with Jagr and Straka – well, I don’t know what to say.

    Rachunek will make 1.4 million dollars this year. Do you think Paul Mara would make that on the open market? Do you honestly believe that Paul Mara is worse than Karel Rachunek? Or on the same level as him?

    I dislike the Rangers as much as anyone but they have got the makings of quite a team here.

  52. Steve,

    You are kidding me– my brother is a Ranger hater on all levels but even he tipped his hat and said those where some pretty awesome moves by the Rangers to get both Gomez and Drury. He like myself was a little shocked by the numbers and felt the Ranger took a gamble on the length but sees it this way— losing Nylander and Cullen(trade) but adding Gomez and Drury is a major upgrade.

    Why would there be negative press about this team going into this year with these moves. There are certainly other teams that made some better moves for there team but the Rangers got the two biggest free agents on the market the first day. If I told you that your team is going to lose Nylander, Cullen(trade) and Rachunek but get back Gomez and Drury—

    You mean to tell me that you would have negative thoughts and feelings going into the upcoming season about your team.

    Triumph was not sure what you are using to evaluate these players but it seems pretty clear to me that you dislike this organization and bash all moves weather good or bad as bad moves.

    I will tell you that I bleed Ranger Blue but I m also a realist the cup is not awarded in July/August. I feel the Rangers have a fair chance to contend or make a serious run for the cup this year but it is more than likely the cup will be won by a west team again.

  53. Alright, I don’t dislike the Rangers organization. I don’t particularly want to bash ALL moves be they good or bad.

    I actually don’t think the Gomez and Drury signings will turn out as spectacularly as the majority of the media though apparently. Drury has been touted as a clutch performer ever since his days with Colorado. Gomez has been a slick skating play maker since he first appeared on the scene in New Jersey. But NEITHER player has actually managed to carry a team to the Stanley Cup without other players leading the charge. Admittedly they’re both relatively young, and Jagr and Straka will be there to take a lot of the heat… but I just don’t see them turning into Joe Sakic or Steve Yzerman. I think they’ll both continue to hover around their career point totals, so Gomez should end up with around 75 to 80 points and Drury will get around 65 to 70 with about 30 goals. Drury will help in the face off circle, and Gomez is responsible defensively, but I personally think this is a case of the two players being pumped up as the biggest fish in a VERY small pond.

    I don’t honestly think Nylander or Cullen are drastically worse than Drury and Gomez. The difference between the first 2 and the latter 2 is mainly age and notoriety. Nylander and Cullen are very underrated, Drury and Gomez are rather over-rated. That is my personal opinion… you don’t need to share it. I am NOT a Rangers fan, but I do think very highly of Lundqvist, Shanahan, and I actually think the Avery trade was one of the best made in the NHL last season. So please don’t mistake me for a mindless Ranger Basher.

    As for my comments on the Defence, I guess my point is, they’re possibly sound as a unit, but none of their players particularly strike me as top end talent. Perhaps that assessment is rather arbitrary on my part, but that doesn’t really invalidate it, or my basis. You yourself agreed that the Rangers had trouble holding leads, and the odd thing to me is, you chalk improvement in the last 3rd of the season up to better Defence, where I would say Lundqvist went on an awesome tear, and stood on his head for the last couple of months, helping propel them into the Playoffs. I actually don’t think the D of the Rangers changed all that drastically. They ditched Aaron Ward for being a disruption in the room, and got Paul Mara in exchange from Boston, who did nothing to really improve the back end.

    Like I said, this team is based around it’s offence, and it’s goaltending, not it’s blue line. I don’t care if they were 9th in GAA last season, their Defence is not the focal point of this team, and as a result they will likely still not win the cup. Call them unsung heroes or whatever you like, but they’re relatively unimpressive to me, regardless of nice +/- numbers.

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